In attempt to block a proposed Civilian Complaint Review Board, police unions in Newark, New Jersey have filed a legal complaint alleging “unfair practices” against the city.
According to the Newark Superior Officer’s Association, officials violated state law by instituting civilian oversight of police officers without consulting the very cops that will be overseen.
The unions allege that the guidelines for the committee were developed without police approval and depart from established disciplinary processes. In other words, officers are worried that they might actually be held accountable for their actions.
The primary qualm being raised by cops is a provision that empowers the board to conduct independent investigations and subpoena officers to appear before its members in order to be questioned.
The unions say the changes violate collective bargaining agreements made with the city.
“The city ordinance is in violation of state law, labor law and our negotiated agreement, and we’re confident that we’re going to prevail,” SOA President Capt. John Chrystal said.
Other legal challenges could eventually be brought forth, but in the mean time, the state Public Employee Relations Commission has granted a hearing for the unions to voice their grievances.
That hearing will begin on April 14 and could stall or even prevent the civilian oversight – which was supposed to begin in the Spring.
Mayor Ras Baraka has called the allegation that the city didn’t seek union input when formulating guidelines for the board, “disingenuous.”
“We asked them to be involved in it, but they refused,” Baraka said. “They refused to be involved because they’re trying to push for a contract themselves without regard for what we’re doing here, which is wrong.”
The board was formulated after a 2014 Dept. of Justice probe found that Newark officers routinely violated individuals’ constitutional rights and engaged in acts of excessive force.
It would allow citizens to file complaints that would then be independently investigated, ruled on, and forwarded to the city’s police chief.
The chief would then determine punishment based on the severity of misconduct in accordance with developed “discipline matrix” guidelines.
“Subpoena authority is in place in other civilian review boards, and clearly a key power that must be a part of Newark’s regime in order to ensure that the board has meaningful investigatory authority,” New Jersey ACLU Executive Director Udi Ofer said.
“We’re disappointed that the union has decided to litigate this issue before the ink is hardly dry on the civilian review board legislation, and before any rules and regulations have even been issued on how the review board will operate.”